Jeffrey Ossen -The Philanthropist
Jeff’s first documented charitable giving began when he was an undergraduate at UConn: $25 to CARE- a princely sum in 1960. His wife, Eileen, recalls that Jeff was as proud of giving to CARE at age 67, as he was at age 18. He would remain close to CARE for the rest of his life, with considerable larger gifts. “He gave $30,000 to CARE to help bring fresh water to small villages in Peru. Instead of women having to go to the well with buckets, he brought running water to the community”, remembers Eileen. Another CARE grant offered microloans to women whose husbands had died in mining accidents. “They could sew or make pottery and sell them so that their children could go to school instead of working the mines,” she says. Another effort supported education for girls in Afghanistan. “So many of his grants were to strengthen women, who he believed were the future of their countries”.
The Windham Chronicle recorded the history of Jeff’s multi-year commitment to Arts in the North Windham public schools that began in 1998. It began with Lesley Kirschenbaum and Sharon Haight, North Windham school teachers, asking Jeff for advice on how to solicit financial assistance from area businesses to help fund programs at the school. To their delight and surprise, Jeff began donating $2,000 each year to bring the Arts (Hartford Symphony and opera) to town, and over time increased the donation to $3,000. Jeff told the Chronicle “the Arts go across cultural and economic lines, or they should. I think the whole younger generation needs this exposure.” And, he added, “I’ve gotten far more out of it than I’ve put into it.”
Eventually Eileen and Jeff expanded the program across all the Windham public schools, and eventually established the $50,000 Ossen Fund for the Arts at the then- Community Foundation of the Tri-County Area in 2006.
When asked how Jeff learned about grant making, Eileen answered: “From himself, observing others, and always, after he set something in motion, would be willing to change the focus for improvement.” There were thoughtful grants such as: a defibrillator for the North Windham Fire Department, and new equipment for the YMCA gym.
But Jeff’s legacy was literally cemented with his $500,000 leadership gift that led to building the $8.5 million Jeffrey P. Ossen Emergency Center at Windham Community Memorial Hospital, in Willimantic, CT. “Jeff felt good about the gift; never second guessed his decision, or any decision to gift giving. And I was happy for him anytime he gave away money; I could see the joy in his eyes”, Eileen said.
Jeff’s other legacy, was his personal friendships; his bigger than life laughter, his openness and honesty; his positive attitude that was infectious. And as a past marathon runner, he chose every avenue possible to beat the time clock he was facing with his illness. He shared his dreams about gift giving and how happy this made him. His friends have great memories and enjoy watching the foundation grow in grant giving.
The Jeffrey P. Ossen Foundation…
As Jeff’s illness began to dominate his days, so did his commitment to turn the assets of his life’s work into a permanent charitable foundation. Eileen remembers the final year of conversations. “He was so excited by the foundation, even knowing he would not be alive to do the giving. He took it as a very serious commitment focusing discussions on healthcare in the community, classical arts, education and women’s issues. He told me the most important lesson: ‘Think outside the box and just because something works today doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow.”
The Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation also centers on the community of Mansfield, where he had made his home since 1958. “He just loved the area,” Eileen states. “He created his business, raised his daughters Elizabeth (Liz), Jacqueline and Carolyn, became involved in politics, and taught here. It gave him all the opportunities to succeed. He loved to travel, and we went all over the world, but this area was his home.” The foundation was able to be arranged, despite Jeff’s facing death, because of his constant positive attitude.
“Jeff was so heroic and courageous over the last years with his battle against kidney cancer. He was an inspiration to everybody”, said Windham Hospital President and CEO Richard Brvenik. “Sometimes when you go to visit somebody, you hope you will be uplifting them. I think it was the reverse when you visited Jeff. He was always strong and uplifting to others.”
Eileen, who worked for Jeff since 1990, married him in 2004. She is both proud and grateful that she can execute his charitable legacy. “He entrusted me to make the foundation work. This trust in me, allowed Jeff to ‘let go’ and be at peace knowing the foundation would be and do just what he wanted it to do: improve the lives of those affected and touched by his generosity.”
|Jeffrey P Ossen Family Foundation|
|Employer Identification Number (EIN)||261243178|
|Name of Organization||Jeffrey P Ossen Family Foundation|
|In Care of Name||Eileen M Ossen|
|Address||PO BOX 291, North Windham, CT 06256-0291|
|Deductibility||Contributions are deductible|
|Foundation||Private non-operating foundation|
|Exempt Organization Status||Unconditional Exemption|
|Assets||$10,000,000 to $49,999,999|
|Income||$10,000,000 to $49,999,999|
|Filing Requirement||990 – Not required to file (all other) (990-PF required)|
|Amount of Income||$14,279,550|
|Form 990 Revenue Amount||$0|
|National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE)||Philanthropy, Voluntarism and Grantmaking Foundations: Private Gran|